The 'Mathematical Formula:' Why There Is Boredom And Anxiety During Math Class


We have often heard how math experts and professors gush about the beauty of math and its complex formulas. However, math teachers remain stumped how to make math exciting in class. Recent studies have revealed the 'mathematical formula' why anxiety and boredom often characterize a math class.

In her book, Elephant in the Classroom, Jo Boaler wrote her observation why math elicits such fear and trepidation among students. She said that it starts with the idea that some people can do math while other can't. Teachers have been unconsciously influenced by this belief so they spend their time separating those who can from those who cannot.

To complete this mathematical formula of boredom and anxiety, Boaler continued that there is a very 'narrow subject' taught to children in the classrooms, a subject that is very different from the world of what mathematicians know. This 'narrow subject' involves rote learning where children have to exactly repeat over and over again what the teacher is teaching.

A research project conducted in Scotland showed the same results as Boaler's observation. The research in Scotland noted that a version of 'degraded and mutated' mathematics is being taught in classrooms. This version, the research continues, is of very low epistemic quality. What it does is present math as a dogmatic and infallible subject that is based on a wrong and right answer coming from 'algorithmic reasoning' and superficial memorization.

With this observation comes the question what does a math lesson with high epistemic quality look like? According to the research, it is one that is characterized by creative reasoning. The researchers further explained that creative reasoning has many functions in mathematics. This can be used in explanation, discovery, verification, systemization, and construction of theory and exploration. This is what makes students engaged in the classroom.

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